LINGUIST List 15.3323
Sat Nov 27 2004
Sum: English Pronunciation: Bolth Part 3
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English Pronunciation: Bolth Part 3
Message 1: English Pronunciation: Bolth Part 3
From: John Esposito <espositocsusm.edu>
Subject: English Pronunciation: Bolth Part 3
Regarding query http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-3227.html#1
I would like to gratefully acknowledge some new responses to the "bolth"
question, from Damien Dabrowski (ScanSoft), Andrew Spencer (University of
Essex), Rosemary Beam de Azcona of UC Berkeley / La Trobe University (who,
from Kansas, has the ?bolth? pronunciation herself), Natasha Warner
(University of Arizona), and Roger Lass (Uinversity of Cape Town).
Dabrowski provides additional data from the Philadelphia area, noting that
/l/ can appear in words like ''house'' and ''out'', and that one speaker
"had odd ls in lots of places, notably 'draw/drawing' and 'saw'," but not
in 'couch, south, house'.
Others have joined Susan Fischer (see Part One) in discussing a sound
change in, according to Lass: "the final [l] in parts of the SW of England
that gives e.g. Bristol < Bridgestowe, and final [l] in words like 'idea'
in that city and its surrounds. Another case is the frequent dark-l like
phone before labials in some inland Southern US dialects."
Of Bristol, Spencer writes: "English word final vowels acquire an
excrescent lateral. A name like 'Norma' will therefore be pronounced
'Normal'. Alternations between d/l are not uncommon cross linguistically.
It's a frequent feature of Bantu morphophonemics, for instance."
Lass also suggests that the absence of /l/ in 'oath' is not a theoretical
problem, since the change is in its early stages. "Neogrammarian change is
simply an epiphenomenon of completed lexical diffusion; here I suspect what
we are seeing is the early stages of a development that will be worth
watching, but could take centuries to complete. (It took at least 400 years
for postvocalic /r/ in England to delete in non-rhotic dialects.)"
Finally (for now, at least), Warner provides a new explanation, writing
"that it's... overlap of the vowel gesture and the interdental gesture
leading to there being a time period with roughly the gestures for an /l/,
which can get reinterpreted as an intended /l/. The vowel involves
lowering and backing of roughly the tongue root. The interdental involves
extending the tip of the tongue upward and forward. An /l/ involves
lowering and backing of the tongue root, and involves some kind of alveolar
gesture, particularly a raising of the tip. I think the reason you get the
epenthetic /l/ before the interdental and not before, say, a /t/ (no 'l' in
'boat') is that the interdental gesture, requiring really the tip to move
so far forward, is more similar to the /l/ gesture with tip up and at least
one side down than a regular alveolar closure gesture is. Bryan Gick
suggested this gestural overlap explanation during a discussion one time,
although I don't know if he's written about it. It parallels his
explanation for epenthetic 'r' in non-standard 'warsh' for 'wash.'"
Warner herself has an epenthetic /l/ in 'both' but not 'oath', (also,
lexically specified, in 'mouth' but not 'south'), while noting a different
vowel: "more of an open-o in 'both,' more of a real /oW/ in 'oath.'"
I find it interesting that what started out as a casual comment by an
undergrad has been answered with at least four substantially different
theoretical explanations. Thanks to all respondents for their
contributions. -- John
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
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